Sometimes in the middle of progress is a reminder of where it all began. On Harry Hines Boulevard near Inwood Road, I drive by and grin about a certain persevering red Cape Cod-style cottage that sits across the street from the towering Parkland Memorial Hospitalâs large campus.
Dan Murchison Craddock Jr. erected what he calls this Williamsburg-style building with a pitched roof, three dormers, multiple paned windows and lovely clapboard siding in 1947. The city later grew up all around this Dallas lumberyard.
âWe have enjoyed having this unique mercantile building,â Craddock says. âMy wife was the person who loved Williamsburg styles. She loved Virginia.â
Craddock, 94, is originally from the Oak Lawn and Highland Park area of Dallas.
âMy father became ill, and I had to leave college earlier, but I got a couple of good years in at the University of Texas in Austin,â he said.
In his office, mammoth antique desks hold several accounting ledgers and a calculator.
âMy desk is just about scratched to pieces,â he says.
I told him that the wear is considered cool now.
Looking sharp in his blue-and-white striped short-sleeve shirt and slacks, I noticed his desk faces son-in-law Marcello Guerciniâs desk.
âSo, the desks face one another for good workplace debates?â I chide.
âAnd on occasion, we have those,â Craddock says with a loaded smile. He says he comes to work once or twice every week for four hours to crunch numbers.
I ask Guercini facetiously if heâs ever busted when his father-in-law finds a discrepancy. He and Craddock break out into laughter.
âAll of the time,â says Guercini, 66.
Craddock is proud that he built something that many family members continue to enjoy building, too.
âThe best thing that ever happened to Craddockâs Lumber Co. is right here,â Craddock says, pointing to his son-in-law. Guercini, originally from Florence, Italy, married Craddockâs youngest daughter, Ellen. They met while she was studying abroad.
Guercini learned the business from the ground up, and more than 30 years later is president of Craddockâs.
âAnd CFO,â Craddock interjects. âMarcello is a genius about wrapping customers around his finger.â
A sense of community
Craddock talked about other lumber companies that helped to build Dallas, like Lingo Lumber Co. and the legendary lumberyard on the corner of Greenville and Yale Boulevard (now SMU Boulevard) called Williford Lumber in the 1940s. The Shamburger family bought it in the 1970s.
âI worked there, and I worked for other lumberyards 2Â½ years before we kicked this one off in 1947,â Craddock says.
When Shamburgerâs closed, Craddockâs hired some of the former employees. When I opened the large antique door to Craddockâs, there stood Shamburgerâs memorable lumberyard worker Frank Billard. Craddockâs recruited Billard and others after Shamburgerâs closed. Billard, a veteran in the local retro-lumberyard arena, caught me up on who went where and who had passed away. These people in our community make Dallas feel smaller, in a very good way.
I never thought Iâd see Billard in an old-school lumberyard again, with the insurgence of home improvement big-box stores. But there he stood, with others like Herbert Murphy and Edward Wright, to name a few, who were still in the hometown lumber industry now stationed at Craddockâs.
94 years and counting
With all of the big-box stores, how is Craddockâs staying bolted in tight when many other Dallas lumberyards have closed?
Craddock and Guercini spoke to the unwavering customer service and support that big-box stores often downsize. They also point to their ability to offer unique and hard-to-find products from an array of vendors under one high-pitched roof. Everything can be delivered right away. Many job sites at tight inner-city locations canât store lumber, so the ability to order what is needed each day and have it hauled to the work site is helpful to construction customers.
Customers seem to be first. Craddockâs wouldnât even let Hollywood producers shut the lumberyard down for one week of filming for the 1980s movie Target, with Gene Hackman and Matt Dillon, because customers would be inconvenienced.
Craddock has advice for those who are just starting to build their lives. I was hanging on every valuable word as he told me: âI can think of only that it takes perseverance and trying to set some sort of goals and trying to achieve them. You put your trust in those that are honorable and trustworthy.â
Simple but extremely effective.
Life beyond lumber
I have to admit that I felt as if I were visiting with lumberyard royalty as Craddock told me about his life. I felt fortunate to meet him. He is eloquent and as sharp as the nails in old bins nearby.
He told me that his wife, Arabella Wofford Craddock, died one year ago.
âWe had 691/2 years together,â he says, leaning into me a little with a softer voice.
âWe had five children, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.â
Iâm impressed with his quick stats recall. I have trouble remembering my cellphone number, and Craddock doesnât miss a date or digit.
I thought that this man built much more than a persevering Dallas business. He built a beautiful life with a strong, solid foundation that proves today to be long-lasting.
Clare Miers is a Dallas freelance writer.
Craddock Lumber Co., 5422 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas. craddocklumber.com